More Species of Known Space

Tubaki

The Tubaki are one of several species whose presence in space is greatly dependent on technologies and inrastructures of other powers. There is only a small number of Tubaki shipyards and most of them are primarily specialized on converting old purchased ships from other manufacturers to provide greater comfort to Tubaki crews. Those shipyards that do build their own ships still rely on imported hyperspace drives and gravity generators from other more established companies. Despite Tubaki worlds being generally seen as more low tech planets, Tubaki have been travelling through space for centuries and founded several dozen of colonies in other sectors. Even though most of them are of no interest or relevance for major interstellar companies.

Tubaki are humanoids quite similar in size and proportions to Enkai and Mahir, which is generally attributed to the very similar gravity and climatic conditions on the Tubaki and Enkai homeworlds producing a similar optimal body shape for upright walking humanoids. On average, Tubaki tend to be slightly taller and more muscular, but mostly stand apart due to their sand to brown colored fur and thick manes. Tubaki found outside their own system are usually employed as manual labor, primarily in mining and agriculture and also various low-level mechanic jobs. Tubaki colonies are usually too small to have advanced engineering and science schools and those individuals with advanced degrees typically find their calling in contributing to the development of their planets rather than seeking their luck among the stars.

Chosa

Chosa are tall humanoids with tough green-gray hides and sharp teeth that give them a reptilian appearance. They are among the physically strongest of the species travelling space and fight fiercely and with little hesitation. Prejudices are widely spread among the other species of Chosa being violent brutes, but their homeworld actually ranks among the most technologically advanced planets in Known Space. Their ships tends towards blocky and practical designs typically ragarded as looking blunt with little thought for decorations, but compare in their capabilities to all but the most sophisticated Damalin and Netik ships.

Chosa encountered in space are often mercenaries, an occupation that their physical toughness and familiarity with advanced space technologies makes them well suited for. Chosa culture as a whole is not overly militaristic though, and their prominent presence in the mercenary business comes more from the high demand for Chosa in that line of work. There are typically not a lot of opportunities for Chosa engineers or pilots outside of Chosa systems.

Amai

The Amai are one of the newest species that have gained the ability to travel between the stars. Even just 200 years ago, the Amai had no contact of any kind with any other species and only performed a few crewed exploration missions within their home system. Being native to a mostly aquatic world with relatively few islands above the surface, Amai civilization has always been greatly limited by the available amount of land for agriculture, and even after becoming industrialized the total population has only barely surpassed one billion, which is much smaller than for any other species in Known Space. Given their relatively small number and only recent arrival among the stars, Amai are only rarely encountered by any other species and usually releatively close to their home system. Being only in contact with small frontier colonies and minor outposts and knowing about the home systems of other species only through tales, Amai tend to be quite cautious when encountering aliens or visiting unknown planets in a region of space that appear rather lawless and chaotic.

Major Species of Known Space

Known Space is home to several intelligent species that possess the capabilities for interstellar flight and have colonized worlds outside their home systems. With the vast distances of interstellar space, and communication between systems being limited to the speed with which messages can be carried by ships, there are few true interstellar governments and colony worlds are usually highly autonomous or fully independent. Though compared to the homeworlds, even the largest colony worlds have populations in the size of small countries, and most are little more than a single major city. The Esekar Sector is far away from any homeworlds or major colonies, but has become home to numerous settlements and outposts of various species from all over Known Space.

Enkai

The Enkai home system is one of the great powers of Known Space, even though it is more a confederation of several nations on the homeworld and various other planets throughout the system than a truly unified state. The Enkai homeworld is one of the most technologically advanced in Known Space, which has enabled its people to establish hundreds of colonies of various sizes over the course of many centuries. Today, the Enkai are one of the three most dominant species in the Esekar Sector.

Enkai are a primate species with skin in various shades of dull red and with black hair. Among the planets on which intelligent life has evolved, their homeworld is comperatively warm and dry, though dominated more by steppes and savann than actual deserts. This makes Enkai quite well adapted to deal with high air temperatures but they generally cope poorly with high humidity. With the exception of small outposts that have economically collapsed and never managed to recover, Enkai  worlds have generally quite advanced technological equipment.

Among other species, Enkai are known to be both ambitious and exiteable, often to the point of being reckless. Both the Damalin and Netik consider this unbecomming of such a highly technologically advanced civilization, but their ability to seize on opportunities quickly without relying on the hierarchies of established institutions has served their species well in their journey to the stars.

Damalin

The Damalin are one of the oldest species travelling and coloizing space that is still in existence. They gained access to hyperspace drive technology from the presumably extinct Udur over 4,000 years ago and since then have colonized dozens of systems in the space surrounding their home system, many of which have constantly been inhabited for thousands of years by now. Damalin sates are usually in control of or at least laying claim to entire star systems.

Damalin are a amphibian species with pale blue-white skin, large dark eyes, and thin mouths. While they can survive underwater indefinitely, the practical necessities of industrial production and food preservation have forced their civilization to become almost completely land based. But still most Damalin settlements of any significant size include many large underwater “parks” in rivers and lakes, and the houses any moderately well off individuals include a pool instead of a veranda, large enough for entire families.

Damalin have a reputation among other races for chosing their words carefully and being very deliberate in their actions, which sometimes comes off as indecisive, but they often have a much greater awareness of what’s going on around them and being prepared for most eventualities than they are letting on. While their thin bodies don’t provide them with much strength, they are known to shot well and quick and rarely allow themselves to be surprised unprepared.

Netik

Long before the Damalin first left their homeworld to travel to the stars, the Netik had already settled dozens of planets throughout all the space then known to them. Like the Damalin, they did not develop hyperspace drive technology themselves but had gained it from Udur explorers and traders arriving on their homeworld almost 6,000 years ago. During the first centuries of their expansion into interstellar space, Netik colonies were established as vassal states to the Udur, making use of their existing transportation infrastucture. Correspondingly, the decline and eventual collapse of the Udur civilization had incredible impacts on the widely dispersed Netik colonies, many of which lost all contact with each other as they did not have the industrial capacity to maintain regular transportation of messages across the great distances. At the lowest point, the largest remaning cluster of Netik worlds consisted of only three major colonies and a few outposts, with a combined population of only a few hundred million. Eventually the three colonies developed industrially to a point where they could reestablish contact with a number of other colonies, though many of them had completely collapsed in the centuries of complete isolation. Most strikingly, the Netik have never been able to determine the location of their homeworld and to this day it is unknown if any kind of Netik civilization still survives on that planet. Though they are lacking a homeworld, many Netik colony worlds have exceptionally large populations in the high millions, and they numerous smaller outposts everywhere throughout Known Space.

The Netik are an insectoid race and one of the most alien in appearance to most other species. But many people who encounter them in person for the first time are quite surprised at how effortlessly they interact with members of other species. While their body language is close to impossible to read for other species, Netik are usually very skilled at picking up on social clues and picking their words well to create a common sense of understanding with other people. Among space travellers, Netik have a reputation to be generally welcoming and quite fun to be around, which often is quite mystifying to people who have never encountered them themselves.

Mahir

Among all the species travelling throughout Known Space, the Mahir stand out uniquely for not actually being native to what is considered their homeworld. Genetically, the Mahir are nearly identical to the Enkai, having split off from their original species only some 20,000 years ago. For reasons that will likely remain unknown forever, an alien species visited the Enkai homeworld during the stone age and collected an estimated 80 to 100,000 people which they settled on a planet several hundreds of lightyears away. Archeological discoveries and genetic studies by Mahir scientists had determined long ago that they are evolutionarily unrelated to any other life on their home world and had left no evidence of their existance on prior to the established date anywhere on the planet. It was only when the Mahir gained access to hyperspace drives and encountered the Enkai 400 years ago that the true origin of their species was revealed.

Mahir are physically nearly identical to Enkai, with the most evident difference being in their coloration. Unlike the Enkai, the skin and hair of Mahir is nearly white. There are however various minor adaptations to the much colder environment on their new home planet, primarily in regards to temperature tollerance. These differences appear to be the result of genetic changes introduced by the aliens that originally settled the Mahir on their new planet, but the purpose of that projects remains a complete mystery.

Even though the Mahir gained access to hyperspace travel only fairly recently, their homeworld is otherwise technologically very advanced and they have become a considerable economic and industrial power in known space since they gained access to cheap raw material from other systems.

Ghouls

The undead are creatures who were once alive, have died, and then brought back as something else under the influence of sorcerous corruption and demonic possession. While often regarded among them by most people, ghouls are not actually undead, since even though they have become warped by the corrupting influence of sorcerous energies, they never died and in many ways continue to be what they were in life.

Ghouls are people who have been exposed to strong sorcerous energies for long durations of time. Many ghouls are the servants of powerful sorcerers or demon-possessed anathema who assisted their masters in numerous demonic rituals or haved served in their inner sanctums for many years. Others are the survivors of great sorcerous attacks or disasters that permanently poisoned their devastated towns and the surrounding land. But there are also stories of foolish explorers who got lost in the Underworld, turning into ghouls in a matter or weeks or even days as they wandered too close to demonic lairs or the remains of slain demons. But usually the transformation into ghouls is a slow and gradual one. Typically the skin becomer paler and turning grey, hair becoming thin and stringy, and eyes turning all black. Eventually their hands become claws and their teeth fangs, alongside a growing instinct to tear and bite at those who provoke their easily irritated anger. An instinct that eventually grows to start feeding on the flesh of the slain. Another side effect of people who are turning into ghouls is that they stop to age and recover even from the most grievous wounds. It is nearly unheard of for a ghoul to escape from a fight and later die from sustained injury. Often, this is the first hard proof that a person has not just been corrupted by the effects of sorcerey but turned into an actual ghoul.

Unlike what many people believe, the corruption into a ghoul does not turn a person into a mindless beast that hunts the living. This descent into savagery and madness is primarily caused by the continuing exposure to demonic corruption. The transformation into ghouls can not be reversed (though there are legends of magical springs that might have such a power), but ghouls that have managed to escape the dark places that corrupted them are often able to retain their intelligence and most of their sanity if they are able to maintain the discipline to control their bestial urges. Ghouls found in the ruins of destroyed cities or the crumbling towers of long dead sorcerers are rarely much more than wild beast that quickly attack any potential prey they think they can take down. But ghouls who are wandering the lands might be quite difficult to spot as such without taking a close up look at their faces. Traveling ghouls usually wrap themselves in cloaks and hoods, or wear masks to conceal their distorted features.

Ghoul
Armour Class 13
Hit Dice 2* (3-15 hp)
Attacks 3 claws and bites +1 (1d3 + paralysis)
or Weapon +1 (1d6+1)
Movement 40’
Saving Throws D12, W13, P14, B15, S16 (2)
Morale 9
XP 25
Number Appearing 1d6 (2d8)

Infravision: 90′.

Paralysis: For 2d4 turns (save versus paralysis). Creatures larger than giants are unaffected. After paralyzing a target, ghouls will attack others.

Undead: Immune to effects that affect living creatures (e.g. poison). Immune to mind-affecting or mind-reading spells (e.g. charm, hold, sleep).

Source

Goblins

Goblins are one of the many peoples populating the lands of Kaendor but they are barely seen in the cities and towns of Senkand, making their homes well beyond the edges of civilization. A large number of goblin villages exists west of the mountains in the forests of Dainiva, particularly in the caves of the lower mountain slopes and foothills, but they can also be found further west in places where the dense forest blocks out most of the sun, all the way up to the great river cutting the vast woodlands into two halves. Other settlements are located beneath the rocky highlands of the Yao, and they are also said to live in the far northen lands of Venlat.

Goblins are humanoid creatures of short stature, usually standing around four foot tall but occasionally reaching up to five feet in height. They have tough hides ranging from a dusty brown to grey that helps them blending in with rocky environments as they oftn wear nothing more than loose trousers and perhaps a simple shirt in similar natural colors. While goblins have faces similar to other humanoid peoples with small noses and big black eyes, most people regard them as rather expressionless and blank. Goblins that could be considered chatty are rarely encountered, giving them a reputation for being somewhat dull, but they are no less smart than other peoples. Many Yao who have had dealings with goblins describe them as refreshingly composed and unobstrusive.

While goblins frequently come outside to the surface, they mostly do so during the evenings and at night and prefer to stick to densely forested areas as their true home is found underground. Not only are they well adapted to living in caves, they also follow ancient customs of adapting underground spaces to their own needs. As they don’t make any metal tools of their own, and bronze blades and chissels from the surface are limited, their masonry and sculpting looks very primitive to the stonework of asura and naga and even the cities of Senkand, but their constructions are often much more sophisticated than their rough looks seem to imply.

Being fully at home in caves, goblins are incredible rock climbers, and their small and thin statures allow them to move through very tight spaces with relative ease. Many caves in Kaendor, particularly below the great mountain ranges, go incredibly deep, with many of them reaching all the way down into the Underworld. While being an incredibly dangerous environment to most peoples other than goblins, the goblins themselves make frequent journeys into the greatest depths of the Earth and are familiar with many of the main passages. Explorers trying to reach caverns and ruins deep underground without goblin guides face little chance of success, or returning.

In the woodlands of Dainiva, goblins are the only people truly native to the land. The more northern reaches of the forest close to the mountains have become home to a number of Fenhail villages, but these have only appeared in the recent centuries, after the First Sorcerers were already gone. The goblins of the forest have called Dainiva their home for much longer than that, even during the time of the Asura Lords. They still possess much ancient knowledge about parts of the woodlands that no Fenhail has ever set eyes on. While few goblin villages are exactly welcoming of visitors, few are openly hostile or ambush strangers found passing through their territory. They are most likely to stay out of sight amd wait for intruders to be on their way, but some are more open to talk, even if rarely enthusiastic. Many goblin villages are very interested in bronze blades and tool, though they rarely have much to trade other than food and leather. As one is moving deeper into the forests and away from the mountains, things are further complicated by very few goblins speaking any languages other than their own.

Goblin
Armour Class 13
Hit Dice 1-1 (1-7 hp)
Attacks Weapon +0 (1d6)
Movement 30’
Saving Throws D14 W15 P16 B17 S18 (0)
Morale 7
XP 5
Number Appearing 2d4 (6d10)

Infravision: 90′.

Hate the sun: –1 to-hit in full daylight.

Goblin king and bodyguards: A 3HD king and 2d6 2HD bodyguards live in the goblin lair. The king gains a +1 bonus to damage.

Surprise: Goblins surprise characters on a 3 in 6 chance in caves and rocky surroundings.

Source

Doppelgangers

I wanted to write this post a long time ago, but somehow I never got around to actually do it. The upload date on the image files is from over one and a half year ago. Such is the life of an AD&HD gamemaster.

I first encountered doppelgangers all the way back in my first introduction to RPGs, and really to fantasy other than The Lord of the Rings and kids TV shows, Baldur’s Gate. They are pretty prominent monsters in the last part of the game and apparently meant to play a big role in the story, but while their appearance looked really cool to me, the way they were presented was rather strange and felt quite disappointing to me even back then. They are these grey naked humanoids that can assume the appearance of other people and have at least some degree of telepathic ability to read your mind, which helps with impersonating the person convincingly. But in the game, you see people you know in the middle of a dark dungeon where they shout incoherent mad ramblings at you and then drop their disguise to charge at you with their claws. What was that all supposed to be about? There is another semi-hidden quest involving doppelgangers infiltrating a merchant company and wasting all its money in bad trades, as an attempt to help a rival merchant company to rise in power. That works better, but they still were really not subtle about it at all. And again, they drop their disguises to attack with their claws as soon as you confront them about something fishy going on.

In the 3rd edition Monster Manual, doppelgangers have one of the coolest illustrations in the book. I love all the Sam Wood illustrations in the book, but I think the Di’Terlizzi interpretation from 2nd edition still looks like a more interesing monster. But this was the first good closeup view of a doppelganger that I’ve encountered and it made me fall in love with them even back then. But even getting proper descriptions of these creatures from the 3rd and 2nd edition monster books, I still found them a bit difficult to make sense of. As described, doppelgangers are a race of humanoid creatures who have the ability to assume the form of humans and other people, and use this ability primarily to replace rich people and enjoy a life of luxury for as long as they can keep up the deception and the money doesn’t run out. Basically just being social parasites. Alternatively, they sometimes offer their services as mercenaries to spy on the enemies of their employers.

That does make some degree of sense, but I also find it really disappointing. Just look at these weird alien things with their featureless faces and blank eyes! They could be anywhere and anyone, with no way to tell how many of them there are and for how long they’ve already been in a place before their presence was discovered. And all they want to do is to eat other people’s porridge, sit on other people’s chairs, and sleep in other people’s beds? That’s so lame. These are some nightmarish horrors from that come to replace your friends and family and you might never even know it.

I always like to approach worldbuilding with the assumption that the world came into being as a product of more or less natural processes rather than the deliberate work of a creator, and that the supernatural forces at work in the world are vastly older than even the primitive ancestors of the civilized peoples inhabiting it today. Monsters existed long before people walked the earth, and any abilities that are directly targeted at humanoid victims would have evolved in these creatures alongside the mortal races. Comfy town houses for doppelgangers to infiltrate are a fairly recent new thing in mortal society, and an ancient creature perfectly adapted to infiltrate cities and palaces wouldn’t make much sense. And that raises the question of what doppelgangers would have been doing all day for the long eons in which mortals inhabited caves and roamed through the wilderness searching for food. There wouldn’t be any space for these creatures as they are commonly described and what would they use their unique ability to replace people use for instead?

There is a really simple and obvious answer to this question: To feed on the flesh of people.

The ability of doppelgangers to perfectly mimic the appearance of people, and to read the minds of people they approach to impersonate a person without acting suspiciously, is a perfect mechanism to get close to their victims and to lure them away from groups where they can kill them without being noticed. And then continue to devour them. When suspicion arises, the doppelganger can simply assume the appearance of a different person. Not only does it make it impossible for searchers to find the real murderer, it also leaves them with a false trail to the person last seen with the victim. A doppelganger that plays things careful and smart can feed on a single community for months before it becomes too dangerous and it disappears silently into the night.

The description of doppelgangers in the Basic Rules say that they assume the form of a PC and attempt to kill it, and if they can do it without being seen, they will use that PCs appearance to get close to others. That just doesn’t make any sense. If you take the appearance of your target it’s really the most straightforward way to tell it that you are some kind of shape stealing monster. This is just stupid. When you can immitate anyone, at least make an attempt at pretending to be someone trapped in a dungeon and in need of rescue. The players might not fall for it, but immitating the person you’re about to attack is literally the worst possible shape to pick.

A doppelganger as a monstrous spy or assassin hired by a villainous antagonist, perhaps even unknowingly, still is can make for really cool adventures. But it all becomes much more interesting and many times more creepier if the doppelgangers are not motivated by laziness but by the taste for human flesh.

Doppelganger
Armour Class 14
Hit Dice 4* (4 – 32 hp)
Attacks Bite +3 (1d12)
Movement 30’
Saving Throws D6 W7 P8 B8 S10 (10)
Morale 10
XP 125
Number Appearing 1d6 (1d6)

Shape stealing: Can adopt the form of any human-like creature (7’ tall or less) observed.

Trickery: Will attempt to kill a PC, retainer, or hireling, take on their role, then lure further victims away from the group.

Reversion: If killed, reverts to its original form.

Spell immunity: Unaffected by sleep and charm spells.

Source

Also, in the fantastic awesome movie The Thing, why are they always talking about “the Thing”. Clearly there are multiple of it running around, as at least two of them are seen to be killed.

From the Collective Cultural Subconscious

I was once again browsing through old posts on Planet Algol to help me get into the right mindset for overhauling Planet Kaendor as a more wild, more weird, and more quirky world than it’s been before. And there I stumbled upon this:

Also known as pack lizards, Nguamodons are a horse-sized species of iguanodon. Herbivores that can survive for two weeks without food or water, they are commonly used as pack animals although any burden limits them to a quadrupedal gait that reduces their speed and renders them unable to use their thumb spikes in combat. They are placid, stupid and easily spooked.

I know that thing! That’s a droha! Seen in the wild over six years before I thought about the idea. I based the droha on a hadrosaurus instead of an iguanodon, but otherwise it’s really the same thing. I even set it at the same 3 HD as the nguamodon.

So someone had the same identical idea, years before me. So what. It actually only proves that there is at least one person out there who agrees with me that this is the cool shit for making great alien fantasy settings.